WHAT IS UNFOLDING BEFORE AND AFTER THE HOLIDAY SEASON?

December 4, 2012

If your answer to the question above was “a bicycle”, we hope it was in part because CCJPA helped introduce you to folding bicycles at an event held November 28th, 2013 at Oakland’s Jack London Square station.  Capitol Corridor teamed up with Bay Area Bikes, who brought in representatives from Tern and Brompton  to showcase two excellent brands of folding bicycles,  let passengers and the community  test ride the bikes and get their folding bike questions answered by knowledgeable representatives.

In the New Year, perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in ‘adopting a folder’ and using it for your first or last mile associated with Capitol Corridor train travel. CCJPA and Caltrans are in the process of creating more on-train room for bicycles, but with the growing popularity of bicycles and train travel, we know it will be a challenge to keep pace with full-sized bicycle storage demand on the train. A folding bicycle is a great way to use the available luggage spaces (which are generally more open than the bicycle racks) and leave space available in the bicycle racks for full-sized bicycles. Of course folding bicycles also work great with bus and BART travel.
If you missed the November 28th event, the good news is that a similar event is planned for December 5th, 2012 in Sacramento. Rex Cycles  and Edible Pedal will be teaming up with CCJPA for an event at the Sacramento Valley station from 2-6 PM. Respectively, they will feature Brompton  and Bike Friday  folding bicycles at this event. Representatives from both manufacturers will be on hand to answer your questions and let you ride-test the various folding bicycles.

We hope to see many of you at the Sacramento event. It might be your first step in welcoming a folding bicycle into your lifestyle!

HOW ‘BOUT THEM FOLDING BICYCLES? BETTER YET, HOW ‘BOUT THOSE GAS PRICES?

October 19, 2012

HOW ‘BOUT THEM FOLDING BICYCLES? BETTER YET, HOW ‘BOUT THOSE GAS PRICES?

So, what’s the connection between folding bicycles and gasoline prices?

I can’t give you a clear explanation, but I promise you will know, I mean really know, by experience, if you get a hold of a folding bicycle and use it to get to and from your favorite the Capitol Corridor stations. Switching to a folding bike may give the following benefits:

  1. Feeling healthier happier you’re  to saving the gas in your car’s tank for another more gasoline-worthy journey;
  2. Having disposable income due to gasoline savings (and perhaps fewer parking charges);
  3. Joy you get from being ultra-mobile and all touchy-feely/eco-green because you’re blending a folded bicycle ride with your Capitol Corridor train journey; and
  4. Knowing your folded bicycle will provide more room on the train for others who maybe can’t get a hold of a folding bicycle but still want to reduce their gasoline usage by bicycling to/from their respective stations.

I wish I could walk the talk and claim that I’m part of this wonderful folding bicycle culture but that is not the reality…yet. I continue to use one of two full-sized bicycles, depending on my travel needs for the day but assure you that I am in heavy shopping mode for a folding bicycle.  I’m busy searching for a folding bicycle that will meet my needs (but I can’t say which one it is since this is a non-company endorsing blog). I have been dreaming of owning a folding bicycle for several years now and been considering several makes and models but as an avid bike user I have many factors to consider.  My search is narrowing and I think I have settled on one that I hope to purchase soon.

Yes – if you already have a bike, a folding bicycle can set you back a bit BUT, the holiday season is upon us and you can add it on the top spot of your wish list and blame it on CCJPA. Use my list of benefits mentioned above! Should you be successful, and your elves need stocking stuffer suggestions, it might be nice to get some of the clothing that colder riding might require: gloves, rain-gear, woolen cap . . .

To make your folding bike search easier (or to bolster the holiday gift request methodology), the CCJPA is planning several folding bicycle demonstrations in the coming months where local bicycle dealers that sell folding bicycles will be on hand at stations for you to try one or more models of folding bicycles yourself. Who knows, they might even offer some discounts along with the demonstration. We are still working out the details on that but we will keep you posted. Or keep an eye out for demos at a station in the near future. You might discover a folding bicycle that hits a nice price/feature point and you can be on your way toward confirming those folding bike benefits I mentioned above.

HOW DO YOU GET AROUND?

Based on recommendations from our peer group who reviewed a draft of the CCJPA Bicycle Access Plan, we are going to be conducting a “mode of access” survey which we hope YOU and YOUR TRAIN FRIENDS will fill out.  We need your input! This will be an online survey so that we be efficient and use your time most effectively. We will ask our riders about your transportation mode of access to the train and from the train to your destination. There will be other questions which will help us best categorize some solutions we are considering with a special focus on potential at-station bicycle facilities and the results will be compiled just in time to help influence the Bicycle Access Plan and other measures we are considering with other modes of travel other than bicycles. If the gratification of filling out another survey, online no less, were not enough, we are offering survey incentives to you and your best train friends with prize drawings that will include as a grand prize a high-quality folding bicycle. Other prizes involve free Capitol Corridor travel. You read about it here first but you will be getting more details on that through the other channels of communication CCJPA utilizes, including our staff walking the aisles of the train to promote the survey.

For one last thought, I will leave you with a potential marketing quote I’d love to use, which we got from one of the bicycle planners in Oakland. It touches on many of the things we have been saying about bicycles on the trains in the past and emphasized heavily per the above folding bicycle discussion: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em.”

Great Bicycle Minds of the “Mega-Region”

September 24, 2012

After a week break before Labor Day (spent in the fine late summer Seattle weather) I returned to host a peer workshop of all—well, most of—the  great bicycle minds in Northern California (admittedly, some could not make the workshop). “Great bicycle minds” is my term for the people that administer the funding for, plan, implement and advocate for the bicycling infrastructure in Northern California.  A good many of them came on September 6, 2012, to give the team here at CCJPA feedback on the draft Bicycle Access Plan

In this draft plan, which CCJPA will release for public comment after our November Board of Directors meeting, we described our prior and ongoing efforts to improve bicycle access and capacity on the train. What was most notable was the feedback we received on the “at-station” improvements described in the plan. For the on-train improvements, which include operational measures, we basically have done or are doing just about all we can do and the group understood that;  however, there were other educational measures suggested that were new to our ears. One that we want to investigate further is developing a bicycle ambassador program. In concept, a bicycle ambassador would be an educational voice on the train who can help those with bicycles safely stow and secure their bicycles. There were also suggestions to put signage on the train cars about where bicycles can and shouldn’t be stored. These both seem like worthwhile ideas to pursue but they would all need to fit within a larger effort…an effort further described next.

The Quest to Improve Bicycle Storage at Stations

For the “at-station” improvements the CCJPA explained our interest in supporting communities that are trying to pursue bicycle sharing and we discussed the rollout of secure bicycle storage and the folding bicycle “rental” membership program (a la the Brompton Dock). As I was preparing the materials for the meeting, I recalled an effort that was given attention in 2008-09 by the two regional metropolitan planning agencies in our territory [Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG) and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)] which involved looking at Northern California as an emerging mega-region. I dropped a mention of that concept with related to the “at-station” projects and that saw broad receptivity. So what does that mean? The electronic access control behind the storage systems (Bikelink cards) in place at many BART stations is quickly becoming the Bay Area standard. The bicycle share program sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco and along select communities on the San Francisco Peninsula, is about to enter a pilot phase. I’m excited as this program has the potential to spread throughout the Bay Area into the communities Capitol Corridor serves…and so, both of those developments sort of set a standard for the Bay Area.  Since the Capitol Corridor connects with the Sacramento region, which is just entertaining these notions, wouldn’t it be nice to have things be consistent, ubiquitous, and cohesive all along the Capitol Corridor route? I can hear the Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t it be nice…” song modified with lyrics about using one card for bicycle locker access or a common membership program for bicycle sharing…

Seriously though, with public sector procurement, funding making things nice like that can be a challenge; however, the CCJPA can be a resource to support that concept with the funding we do have for secure bicycle storage. We will do our best to ensure compatibility across our service territory.

As you can guess, the egalitarian concepts of bicycle sharing are some ways off but the more immediate solution that relates directly to the Capitol Corridor needs is the folding bicycle “rental” program. Via Skype, Michael Foster of Brompton Dock discussed their program to the group. This was a very new concept to many of the attendees and out of the interest in that emerging option, there were concrete suggestions to gather a better understanding of how a membership-based folding bicycle “rental” program might work for CCJPA. As such, and along with other general suggestions that came out of the meeting, the CCJPA will plan to conduct an online survey looking at overall mode of access to and from the Capitol Corridor service.

CCJPA’s “Further Effort Bucket”

Now finally, back to the further effort concept…the survey described above, the ambassador program, signage, incentivizing the use of folding bicycles, cab-car retrofits for more bicycle storage, and enforcement, are all being poured into the “further effort bucket.” We will be taking a revised draft of the Bicycle Access Plan to the CCJPA Board for their review and comments in November 2012 and schedule final adoption in February 2013. In between that time, there will be much more work on these further efforts to wrap them into the final Bicycle Access Plan.

 Training for Two Bike FAVs

On a more personal note I will be taking place in two century rides, the Tahoe Sierra Century (first time doing that) and one of my annual favorite rides, Levi’s Gran Fondo on successive weekends. Training for and doing these rides remind me why bicycling is a crucial quality of life and health issue and it also gives me plenty of time to think about the challenge of improving bicycle access with the Capitol Corridor. Whether you are a Lance Armstrong fan or not, it can’t be denied, the awareness brought to bicycling and the health issues his organization crusades for are, in some way, responsible for why the “I think I will ride a bicycle today” light has turned on for so many people. Quite clearly, the long time and new bicyclists are being drawn to the Capitol Corridor in ways we were not prepared to accommodate. I would like to thank the “great bicycle minds” who are cheering CCJPA on our own century ride as we try to meet and eventually expand the bicycle services associated with Capitol Corridor.

 

Bike Storage & A Summer Tip

August 14, 2012

 

CAPTURING IT ALL!

I am working hard to get a draft of the Capitol Corridor Bicycle Access Plan together for a September 6, 2012 meeting with key players in the “bicycle project funding world.”  I use quotes  because that phrase is my term for all the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Air Quality Districts(ADs)  Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs), local jurisdictions (cities and counties), and bicycle advocacy organizations along the corridor we serve.  If you put all of those entities together, there are quite a collection of MPOs, ADs, CMAs, jurisdictions and organizations across 170 miles and 17 stations. From your own experience, whether you’re an office worker, an activist, a student or a parent, coordinating large groups is always a challenge and coordinating bike funding expects to be an even bigger challenge. We at the CCJPA can, however, be thankful that the “bicycle project funding world” recognizes the positive combination between bicycling and trains riding as an alternative to driving.  So, although we expect a good deal of support, it won’t change the fact that the team here at CCJPA will have our work cut out to gather public input, research solutions and comply with funding application milestones.

To keep you informed of the very latest, I wanted to let you know that we are focusing on a three-legged stool approach for bicycle-related station improvements.  One, which we have some funding programmed for, is for secure bicycle storage.  The other is akin to the “Brompton Dock” I mentioned in prior posts, a bicycle lease/rent program using folding bicycles.  And finally, the third “leg” is having CCJPA support local jurisdictions and any bicycle share programs they may already have – naturally, our train stations are key hubs for programs like that.  Our affable citizens who advise us on the Bicycle Policy Advisory Group were happy to hear about all legs of our bicycle access stool when we met with them in early August.  What will also go into the plan are the on-train features that we have discussed on the bicycle webpage (cab car retrofits, double stops in Berkeley, etc). That way the on-train fixes, as well as the at-stations solutions, will all be captured by one net.

WATER DOWN YOUR SUMMER RIDE

Commuting from Sacramento, I know by direct experience for many of us cyclists that it is HOT out there!  I hope you’re staying hydrated, drinking your water, and getting some of those important electrolytes in your system along the.  I will be the first to admit that the water from the dispenser on the train is no Crystal Geyser, but it’s a better alternative than being parched on a ride home in the afternoon heat.  So, either plan ahead and bring your top water choice or avail yourself to fill up from the train—just get that water bottle full.  Either way, I suggest you enhance your water by mixing in a good balance of your favorite electrolytes..  I think it’s best to remain hydrated and electrolyted (is that a word?) as too much water alone may actually disrupt that electrolyte balance as it is flushed out of your system. There are all sorts of drink mixes out there and I am not in the business to recommend any one of them but if you ride some distance—and and some of you do—I encourage you to research what product works for you and drink it!

Building a Movement to Increase Bicycle Access Support

July 18, 2012

BUILDING A MOVEMENT TO INCREASE BICYCLE ACCESS SUPPORT

I came back from my London research (see blogs 3 and 4) with lots of energy and ideas to apply the London lessons to the Capitol Corridor bike user’s experience. Upon my return, I attended a meeting with various entities in the Sacramento area to look into a bicycle-hire solution — also commonly described as bike-share. The very important first step, which is in its infancy stage, is to investigate if Sacramento is right for a bike share program.  The second step is to determine just how that system would work. To that end, the CCJPA was the first to contribute a modest amount of funding ($10,000) toward such a plan (a plan for Sacramento would probably be about $90,000 in total). The entities will hopefully use that seed funding to build a fully funded planning effort. A bicycle-hire solution at the train stations in Sacramento (and hopefully Davis) is a natural fit but the real key is making sure the entire system works in the community it is designed to serve. Thus, a program for cities like Sacramento (and Davis) actually takes more effort on a per capita basis than cities which are more no-brainers (like Boston, NYC, and, yes, London) for bicycle-hire programs. I will keep you up to speed on the developments in this area.

GETTING IT TOGETHER

Being an interregional service can have its drawbacks since we are not strongly integrated into regional or local planning processes.  With our limited resources, we can’t cover every corner. But with bicycling improvements like bicycle-hire, secure bicycle storage, and with options like Brompton Dock, we have to dive as deep as possible into the regional/local planning process. To that end, we are putting together a Bicycle Access Plan for CCJPA which will outline our efforts system wide – on the train, and at the stations. From that plan, we can work with regional and local jurisdictions to present a local perspective organized in an interregional framework. A good example of this can be phrased as a question – how many of you would like to be carrying multiple bike storage electronic-access cards because things were done differently in Sacramento than in Oakland? Or would you want one card system that works across the route?

HOW TO HELP US HELP YOU

If you do have an on-train bicycle issue (I am using “issue” to generally mean anything related to an interaction with another customer or a conductor in which some aspect of storing the bicycle on the train didn’t go as the reporting customer would have liked) it will really help us here at CCJPA to have the details about the train number, the date of the occurrence and finally, any other details related to the issue while still in the “education phase” of the 2012 bicycle access program, . Occasionally we have gotten complaints regarding on-train bicycle storage with reports of ‘the conductor did this…did that…”. We would love to get right into investigating and learning what we need to on such issues but without a date and train number, we are one step away from getting going and investigating since we need to circle back to get those details. So if you do have an issue – please include those details.

That said, there really have not been as many issues as I expected. I think that speaks to the conductors stepping up their management of the bicycles on the train and you, the traveling cyclist raising your awareness and making the effort to keep aisles free and bicycles secured. Nobody is perfect and sometimes, especially when an unfortunate four car set of equipment is out there (we are trying not to provide those!), storage gets tight and more issues can be anticipated. From riding the trains, I have equally seen conductors and customers not quite doing as much as we have hoped they can do, leading me to believe that there is room for all involved to improve.